Thursday, October 2, 2008

isms

of the many things I don't have time for, this is definitely one of them. which, I imagine, is exactly the reason it's appealing. in any case, here is a place in which I will write things. in theory. probably about theory too.

this past weekend I was in new jersey with the artist formerly known as dino. dino and I went into the city one day, and were wandering about being sickly and grumpy, when we encountered a couple of different tagged advertisements. both of them said basically the same thing, which was something along the lines of "gay people give leukemia rabies." I was confused. leukemia gets rabies from us? or we give some sort of hybrid disease involving both leukemia and rabies? and what about AIDS? isn't that the go-to-guy when it comes to blaming disease on queers? anyways, I wondered what the graffiti in question was attempting to express. that heterosexist people are morons and should maybe read a book or seven? probably.

ignorance like that is bizarrely relieving, though, because it doesn't feel dangerous. it made dino and me laugh and speculate what it was trying to say, and then we forgot about it. as we walked through the east village with linked pinkies or some other innocuous display of affection, even the guy that yelled that we're the ones spreading AIDS didn't feel dangerous. I mean, I yelled right back at him because sometimes I can't keep my damn mouth shut, and I did not fear physical retaliation from him. I'm privileged that I've never been beaten up, raped, assaulted, or harassed in a way that made me fear for my safety as a result of my queerness. my very visible queerness.

it makes me think of the way that many people at my not-so-ivory college think about queerness and its visibility. I remember my first semester there when I lived on the "queer friendly" hall in one of the dorms. initially, there were no specific signs specifying our love of and for fags, which, as our intern explained later, was in case any of the parents helping on move in day might take issue with the hall's designation and keep their kid from living there. I think that was an unfortunate but thoughtful decision on the part of whoever decided that.

it brings up a whole pile of things. seajay and I were looking through a box of different forms of contraception today and talking about the vaginal film method - basically a listerine mouth strip for your cooz that goes over your cervix and makes the environment fairly lethal for sperm - and how both unpleasant and ineffective it seems to be. I think that it's so easy to just think, "well damn, if you don't want use condoms, take birth control or get an IUD. or just get over it and use condoms. or the reality condom. or anything else, really." however, I think it's also important to consider that for some folks, both birth control and keeping it a secret from one's partner are incredibly important for one's safety and health. and sometimes it has to be cheap.

basically, what I'm trying to say is that I have a lot of privilege in a lot of ways. one way is that I can be visibly and loudly queer in the town I live in and the campus where I go to school (this place is a dyke carnival) and not fear repercussion. I can go to new york city with my girlfriend and, at the end of the day, we get to take the bus back to the hotel and are once again safely ensconced in each others' very queer love. I am a fairly masculinely presenting queer, which also comes with a set of expectations when it comes to able-bodied-ness. I feel like the bright-eyed first years who are sneakily full of isms (racism, classism, etc.) yet come disguised in the appealing and beguiling packaging of progressive young (usually white) liberals have the first step down (i.e. "queer people should be able to be out and proud! I love queer people! my best friend is bisexual and I think my mom slept with a woman once back in her feminist days!"), but fail to see the privilege that comes with that, and how it's a conversation that spans race, class, and other identities beyond sexuality. I specify first years just because I overheard a handful of them on the pvta today, playing with their blonde dreads and talking about fair trade coffee and veganism, and I wanted to beat them.

anyway! the point is - I still don't understand how to give rabies to leukemia. that could potentially be a pretty rad skill.

6 comments:

Stephen said...

You're getting better with age.

Yes to all of it.

--Lescaut

lescaut said...

You're getting better with age.

Yes to all of it.

--Lescaut

d said...

aw shucks stephen. you know it means a lot coming from you, venerable editor.

liz shmackenzie said...

While first years are annoying, they have to start somewhere...

I guess I just like to think that once folks' minds are opened to the idea that their entire existence has been a typical example of white privilege down to the T (as almost every white person at Hampshire's life has been..), they'll learn. or try to. sometimes it works. and it's worth a shot.

d said...

liz-
yeah, i totally agree. i mean, that was me when i got here. i generally have more patience but... you know. sometimes you don't. haha.

liz shmackenzie said...

Oh definitely. I get frustrated a lot too. Most days it's just easier to be optimistic (or try to be) so your head don't explode!